Spotlight on Infrastructure: Miami

Monday, June 11, 2018

Between the sun kissed beaches, palm tree lined avenues, and art deco architecture, life in Miami seems to be every bit ideal,; but when it comes to the city’s water supply, things are shaping up to be anything but. A set of complex situations put this beachside city in unique danger when it comes to rising sea levels, and the implications can go deep. Let’s take a look at exactly what is putting Miami in harm’s way, and surprising things that could mean for the water supply.

Downtown Miami Panorama from the Rusty Pelican photo D Ramey Logan

The Rising Tides

Rising sea levels are a problem just about everywhere. We all know the stats: hundreds of cities, like Oakland and Cambridge, MA will be underwater, coastal flooding will become a major chronic problem, and higher sea levels will worsen storm surges, reshaping the way that cities like New York deal with the growing number of storms. What you may not know, is that one of the locations most at risk for these effects is Miami.

To start, Miami is low lying -- simply put, the city sits right beside the sea at a low elevation, and thus it is at constant risk of flooding. But the city’s unique geology is a far more dastardly culprit. Miami lies on limestone, which is made up of eons of coral life that’s been compressed into rock over time. The problem is, that this rock is porous, full of tiny little holes that let the water pass through. As one local expert put it “Our underlying geology is like Swiss cheese” and because of that the water just pours through. Already, some Miami neighborhoods are seeing regular flooding on perfectly sunny days bubbling up through the ground when the tides are simply high.

There’s also the issue that due to the combination of Miami’s location and nearby ocean currents, sea levels seem to be rising especially quickly in South Florida, estimated to be at 6-10 inches above their 1992 level by 2030. And with higher sea levels come higher tides – if the sea’s baseline level is higher, their tides will be too.

Altogether, Miami’s imminent flood risks are unquestionably bona fide, but these all carry with them another bigger risk: groundwater contamination.

The Invader at the Gates

One of the greatest public health risks that Miami residents will soon face is one you’ve probably never heard of: Saltwater Intrusion.

With sea level rise bringing forth floods on a regular basis, Miami’s water supply is at constant risk of contamination. While the public water supply is comprised of healthy freshwater, these floods bring with them untreated salty seawater. When the city’s precious water sources, such as the vital Biscayne Aquifer, come into contact with the ever progressing saltwater, they become contaminated and undrinkable.

This oncoming crisis is nothing short of massive, with the Miami Herald opinion board warning that “Miami-Dade County already relies on western wells to keep providing fresh water. Broward County within 50 years expects to lose 41 percent of its coastal well field capacity to the underground push of saltwater.” These water sources are absolutely critical to the survival of South Florida’s communities, and action is already being taken.

Desalination plants are being built, which will convert this seawater into a potable form. Recycling programs are also being planned to help preserve the precious water that the region already has. Major public works project are in the works that will help to abate the oncoming sea water, such as building mangrove forests and pumping out incoming water back into the sea. Finally, new wells and water sources are being explored that can provide precious new sources for the city’s freshwater needs.

Mangroves in Kannur India

Ultimately, every community exists within a unique place, with a unique set of infrastructure and a unique set of demands. Miami may be under threat, but a proactive community is building their first lines of defense and working to preserve the city’s water future. Hopefully they can prove a model of prevention and rescue that cities around the world can come to follow.

Past Posts

  • Official Tern Water Press Release: 5% Healthy Water Initiative

    Monday, July 23, 2018

  • Water Main Breaks and Floods Center City Philadelphia

    Monday, July 23, 2018

  • Scott Mazo at Healthy Philly

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  • Philly Water Startup can help Elon Musk bring healthy Water to Flint

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  • #waterroundup for July 6, 2018

    Friday, July 6, 2018

  • The Product Development Cycle of the Smart Faucet: Test, Optimize, and Test Some More

    Friday, July 6, 2018

  • #waterroundup for June 29th, 2018

    Friday, June 29, 2018

  • Tern's Work for Healthy Water Never Stops

    Friday, June 29, 2018

  • Tern's Benchmarks for Water Quality

    Wednesday, June 27, 2018

  • Spotlight on Infrastructure: California

    Monday, June 25, 2018

  • #waterroundup for June 22nd, 2018

    Saturday, June 23, 2018

  • Tern Visits the Advanced Manufacturing Show in New York

    Friday, June 22, 2018

  • From our Friends at PiperWai: Activated Charcoal, What Is It and What Does It Do?

    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

  • Why I Believe in Water for Good Health

    Monday, June 18, 2018

  • #waterroundup for June 15th, 2018

    Friday, June 15, 2018

  • The Growing Smart Home Market

    Wednesday, June 13, 2018

  • Spotlight on Infrastructure: Miami

    Monday, June 11, 2018

  • #waterroundup for June 8th, 2018

    Friday, June 8, 2018

  • It Happened in Hinkley

    Wednesday, June 6, 2018

  • Know Your Contaminant: Chromium-6

    Monday, June 4, 2018

  • #waterroundup for June 1st, 2018

    Friday, June 1, 2018

  • What's the Deal with Raw Water?

    Wednesday, May 30, 2018

  • #waterroundup for May 25th, 2018

    Friday, May 25, 2018

  • Know Your Contaminant: Lead

    Thursday, May 24, 2018

  • On the EPA and the National Leadership Summit

    Wednesday, May 23, 2018

  • #waterroundup for May 18th, 2018

    Friday, May 18, 2018

  • Spotlight on Water Infrastructure: New York City

    Wednesday, May 16, 2018

  • The waterroundup for Friday, May 11

    Friday, May 11, 2018

  • The waterroundup for Friday, April 20

    Friday, April 20, 2018

  • How water data can help entire communities live healthier lives

    Thursday, April 5, 2018

  • A Conversation with the Water Department

    Wednesday, March 28, 2018

  • Health Benefits of Water, In Honor of World Water Day

    Wednesday, March 21, 2018

  • Healthy Water at the "Point of Use"

    Tuesday, March 13, 2018

  • How to Make Sure Water From Our Kitchen is Safe to Drink

    Thursday, March 8, 2018

  • Lack of Water Awareness is a Growing Problem, and We’re Fixing That

    Monday, February 26, 2018

  • Tern Water reply to statements made by the Philadelphia Water Department

    Wednesday, February 14, 2018

  • Cape Cod, You Can Now Test Your Water Quality!

    Thursday, December 7, 2017

  • PA, Get Your Water Turbidity Tested!

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

  • Tern Launches Know Your Water

    Thursday, October 5, 2017

  • Alexandria’s Flood

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

  • Tern Water Announces Partnership with Cross Properties.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

  • There’s Something in the Water: The Betrayal of a Municipal Water System

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

  • Water for the Modern Age

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  • Background Information

    Friday, January 1, 2016

  • Tern Standards, Accuracy, and References

    Friday, January 1, 2016